West Stirlingshire locals are in for a treat when a new click and collect farmers’ market opens next week in Balfron.

Drymen based social enterprise The Hub G63 will launch NeighbourFood Balfron on Monday 23 September at Balfron High School, giving villagers across the area access to tasty, local produce.

The new online marketplace will go live the following day (Tuesday 24 September), when locals will be able to order from local food makers and farms for collection on Thursday 3 October between 5-7pm (and every Thursday thereafter). Pick up points are also planned for Drymen and Aberfoyle.

Richard Boddington from The Hub G63, which covers the West Stirlingshire postcode, said: “We set up The Hub earlier this year to promote local food and support sustainable living. The new market supports this goal by giving communities the chance to buy local food online, support the rural economy and reduce their carbon footprint. Locals will also get the chance to connect with the people who make their food at our weekly collections, boosting the relationship between farm and fork.”

G63 co-founder Ruth Glasgow added: “The new market complements our other sustainability projects. We’re busy creating a community garden, so we’ll soon be able to grow our own fruit and veg. We’re also planning a zero-waste shop and wild food foraging courses.”

Sister market Stirling NeighbourFood, run by Forth Environment Link, has been instrumental in getting Balfron’s market off the ground. The environmental charity was awarded £208,000 in March to set up eight new weekly markets across Forth Valley and Loch Lomond, Perth and Kinross, the Scottish Borders and Fife by 2020. A market was also launched in Blairgowrie in August.

Regional Food Project Coordinator, Stuart Guzinski from Forth Environment Link said: “The Regional Food project aims to increase rural access to Scotland’s larder by creating rural employment, offering small scale producers a safe route to market and connecting shoppers with the people who make or grow food locally. NeighbourFood is a sustainable way to food shop that supports local producers and cuts down food miles and food waste. Pre-ordering also means nothing’s wasted. Customers can plan their meals around what seasonal produce is available and producers only harvest or prepare as much as they need.”

The project’s funding comes from a collaboration between four Scottish Rural Network LEADER programmes, Forth Valley & Lomond, Perth & Kinross, Fife and Scottish Borders, through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

Chair of the Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER Local Action Group, Douglas Johnston congratulated G63 and Forth Environment Link on their collaboration: “The roll out of regional food hubs and their satellite pick up points is a great way of supporting local food and drink businesses in our area. The new Balfron market is a great example of community led rural development and is fantastic news for our rural communities in West Stirlingshire!”

NeighbourFood was founded by Cork chef Jack Crotty and business partner Martin Poucher in 2018, following the Food Assembly’s decision to pull out of the UK. The local food network has quickly grown to over 25 markets across the UK and Ireland.

Jack explained how the model differs from how large retailers operate: “Our food producers set their own prices and get a fair price for every product sold. They keep 80% of sales for every product, compared to 15-25% through supermarkets. The remaining 20% is split equally between the market host and NeighbourFood.”

The Balfron NeighbourFood launch will take place on Monday 23 September at Balfron High School from 5-7pm, giving the locals the chance to try a variety of tasters.

Thornhill’s West Moss-side Organic Farm, a micro producer of specialist organic rare breed Shetland beef, is one of the first farms to sign up to the new Balfron market.

Farmer Kate Sankey said: “NeighbourFood is a great flexible route-to-market for West Moss-side and gives local people the chance to buy high quality local produce. We use small scale, low intensity, low carbon output organic practices which make our beef super tasty. But there is more to it than just enjoying the beef, meeting customers face to face on collection night allows me to share the story of our rare breed Shetland cattle and their value to the conservation of Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve. Their grazing of scrub birch and rough grasses encourages the peat producing Sphagnum mosses which capture carbon in this wonderful wild place.”

Balfron Station based farm and food business Foragers will also be selling their chilli-based products at the new market.

Producer Gary McAlpine said: “Stirling NeighbourFood has been a really useful platform in helping us to develop new products and introduce them to new customers in Stirling and beyond. We’re especially excited about NeighbourFood Balfron which is only 3 miles away from our family farm, so we’ll be able to attend the weekly markets and meet our customers more often.”